You hold the luminous night in our hearts,
Though your task is belied around the globe,
Lest our false face is revealed by your truth.
All ill and wars we blame on your aberrant ways.
Unjustly, since you play the hidden tune,
The one to waken us between each dawn
And dusk to our timeless deeper knowing.
Yet calling you evil comforts our pride,
Since we can see your dark shape over there,
We need not respond to our self-made pain,
Sleeper, you snuff out candles in the dark,
Yet shrink in shame when light defines your shape.
‘Fake,’ shouts every single child in the land,
Asking us why man has no love for man.
Who wants to know? When I mention your undercover existence, most people pretend not to understand what I’m talking about. I become the troublemaker who transgresses unwritten rules of conduct. Your face appears here and there around me. When I don’t recognise you we clash inside, and you press your talk through me.
You represent the blind spot, the patch of darkness that contradicts conventions and stains ideals. I would confine you to the dusty ground of my sleepy mind. Yet disowned, you lurk behind my back and act through me like a parasite. Please darken my view. I had rather face your unsavoury challenges than act out your strident orders.
Forgetting is an acquired skill, in service to coherence and meaning. I like things to stay the same. I like to be liked, which is fine as long as I stay in the shade of the collective shadow. Society sanctions those who stay in the shade. They are predictable, loyal to the party, pay their taxes and won’t make a fuss. And you, dear shadow, seem safely contained, locked away.
That’s what we have prisons for.
Only when my coherence is threatened do I look over my shoulder. Only when I step into my deeper truth do I cause a disturbance, and in that light of truth, you, my dear shadow, take shape. Then I have to acknowledge your existence and bring a clear mirror to this luminous dark that is you in me.
Like I remember a day – in a rush to get some copying done, my mind already on the road, the telephone rang. The call was annoying and could not be dealt with in that instance.
I arrived at the copy shop expecting efficiency – it being the kind of day when minutes counted. The woman serving was new, unfamiliar with procedures. She moved slow, pausing, seemingly overwhelmed with the technical complexity of the machine. I asked, ‘How long will it be?’ Wrong question – the woman succumbed to a catatonic state. The task was beyond her. ‘Can’t you get some help?’ I asked. Wrong question – her thoughts knotted. This moment requires patience, I thought to myself, patience for what seemed an eternity. My truth spat on patience. ‘Forget it! I must be on my way.’ And the sting in the tail, ‘Best look for another job, you obviously don’t like this one.’
Furious, I clutched my papers and left. Back in the street, my behaviour caused me concern. My frustration led back to the telephone call from earlier on – I had shouldered it along. Despite this insight, I did not return to the shop and apologize. Another truth – the woman resisted her work. My inferior ‘I’ had delivered a verdict. So be it.
Truth often jumps free through contradiction – imperfection, disharmony. But where to deposit the accumulated energies that tie our heart? How many places are there for people to safely unclench built up anger and honour their conflict inside? Make that inner war meaningful instead of defending an outworn right? Bless my true friends – one of them advised, ‘Being right does not make you potent – responding does.’ Another friend said, ‘We are not made to agree with each other, we are made to create beauty.’ Ah!
What I deny in me, I meet in others – the fearful, the stubborn, the frivolous, the envious and devious, the demanding, the controlling, the calculating, the needy, the critical, the judgemental, the revengeful and sarcastic, the plain stupid, and not to forget – the perfect, the clever, the bright, the wise, the lucky one born with a golden spoon. The list goes on, endlessly, including all I cannot accept in myself. Yet editing my feelings and thoughts to please the noble ideal is the worst of self-tortures. Ah!
Your formidable opponent, my dear shadow, is material rationalism, and the newest craze, political correctness. You have a sharp eye. You anticipate the madness reaching its summit when people will have neither names nor narratives, when only numbers, facts and statistics will be considered fail-proof to inspections. Efficiency and targets are the vogue, nothing messy to obstruct progress. But please, dear shadow, should your patience ever be strained by my forgetting, don’t act the fanatic anarchist through me. They play foul and unforgiving war-games, lacking all humour. Better you embarrass me in person than pour your outrage into the collective through me.
Remind me to listen to your uncomfortable messages. I’ll acknowledge your discontent. I need you in my life as a filter to catch my smugness. Not all the time! So what do you think? Should I give my ego a break? Its desires are forever unfulfilled – always lacking, always searching for something other, better, craving attention. It has childish wants but needs a little kindness in these difficult times, and gentle persuasion to see beyond its small world.
I’ll remember your purpose, my dear shadow, and I invite you to also remember – the fiery love-affair – waiting in each breath, the warmth leaping from every languid gesture, the sudden spark through the eye of a deepening smile. A smile so old and so young, nothing can contain its meaning. The grasp of a reaching hand so firm and so tender, only by simulating water can we fathom its mystery. And a dawn so expectant, every creature perks its ears with bliss and halts all doings. A love stirring the imagination, where the wind shapes a cloud just so – or the moonlight silhouettes eternal players in trees – the sleeping giant, the grinning troll, the child, whirling, the astonished angel, malleable to our fancy. A love that illuminates seeing, feather-light in its desire to dance just where it finds itself in the universe. A love nothing can resist, yet nothingness enfolds it in its boundless existence …
But let me not be carried away, I respect your teaching, dear shadow. Let me befriend you, even so I mostly don’t agree with you. Let me never forget the sacred purpose of my physical existence in the orbit of the sun. Without you I would only be fluff on the coat of real human beings.
Ashen – 2009
10 responses to “Dear Shadow”
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Thank you. So necessary to know the shadow…
Yes, much of what has been hidden in dark cupboards needs air and light. Thanks for visiting, Susan.
Wow! Strong stuff, love it! Yes, I too know my shadow, though perhaps I wish I didn’t.
Thanks, Sophie. And I agree, sometimes it’s tough to acknowledge one’s default programmes and biases. Then again, ignorance is not the bliss it is made out to be 🙂
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Absolutely! Ignorance leads to apathy and that’s a very dangerous path indeed. Too many people are apathetic to the woes, injustices and harm of others, rather than lending a helping hand or even just a listening ear. But it is true, so much of our lives are lived in this twilight zone of non-responsiveness of default monotone actions, ‘automatic pilot’. It’s terrible, but I know I’ve often driven that way too, getting to my destination quite by surprise as I had mindless driven there, hardly noticing the passing world around me. I know one thing I was taught from being ill last year, was ‘mindfulness’ which is the polar opposite of this dreadful mindlessness. Wonderful, thought-provoking post as always. 😀 xxxx
Shadow dancing/boxing. The bright and the brutal. Again and again and again and again. 🙂
Yes – and there’d be no stories without this shadow dance 🙂
This struck me as unusually full of subtle associations. Nice.
Thank you, Rosalind.